Human Trafficking Awareness Day: The Role Technology Plays

There are as many as 21 million people enslaved in the world today. Read that number again—slower this time—and think about the immensity of that number. Twenty-one million people. Twenty-one million individual lives that have been stripped of freedom and removed from society into lives of slavery and exploitation.

You’ve probably heard the statistics before, on the evening news or in giant headlines. That of these 21 million enslaved individuals, the majority are sold into sexual slavery, often as children or young adults. And even beyond that, there are multiple forms of what is often referred to as Modern-Day Slavery or Human Trafficking.

President Barack Obama stated, in his December 2013 Proclamation that named January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, “Slavery tears at our social fabric, fuels violence and organized crime, and debases our common humanity.” ‘

Those phrases—”tearing at social fabric,” “fueling violence,” and “debasing our common humanity,”—all feel like phrases that can be fought with careful, thoughtful, and focused use of the tools at our disposal. Perhaps the most important among these tools is technology.

Technology is a tool. This means that it is not inherently “good” or “evil,” but can be used by individuals to have beneficial or harmful purposes and outcomes. And on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, January 11, 2017, it’s more important than ever to consider the ethics and consequences of the ways individual people and groups use technology to impact the world—and other people.

How can you use technology to increase awareness and drive change in this important social issue? Here are a few best practices for getting informed, getting involved, and making good use of technology to do so:deployment

  1. Get informed.

    Read reports—such as the 2016 Trafficking in Persons report from the U.S. State Department—to learn about the major questions and approaches being formulated by the United States Government to address human trafficking. Here’s a link to the 2016 report as a PDF, for ease of access:

  2. Get involved.

    One of the downfalls of social media is that a simple online share or retweet can often make us feel like we have actually gotten involved in an issue and enacted change. While it’s a step in the right direction to spread awareness with our friends, family, and online circles, it’s even more important to keep acting on that desire to make change happen. One of the best ways to achieve that goal is to connect with organizations. Here’s a site where you can put in your location information for a list of ways you can get involved in your community or city:

  3. Use technology for good.

    USC runs an online space called Technology & Human Trafficking that is completely devoted to exploring the connections between human trafficking and technology. There are reports, studies, and current projects that you can explore to learn more about the important role that technology has played, and can continue to play, in halting human trafficking.

January isn’t just about setting resolutions for our own lives and our own progress. It’s also a time to think of others—of the big world around us—and think about how we can make a difference in that world. Resolve to use technology for more than your own good. Resolve to make the good that tech does something you help make possible.

Comments & questions are welcome at


Leave a reply